Many photographs line the hall in route to my office. Though they are all recognizably pictures that are housed in the Archives, they are not obviously attached to moments, stories, or people. It’s a long hallway too. Walking by them everyday inspires me, in a sense. Every photo in that hallway has a story we cannot hope to glimpse. It’s both beautiful and sad. I can’t speak for the people in these images. I can’t pinpoint their emotion or their history. But they still make me wonder.
I should clarify: the following paragraphs are not stories. They have no beginning or end. They are snapshots, like I see on the wall on the way to work. They are based solely on my initial impression of the photo. I leave many specifics to the imagination because I can only hope to imagine them as well.
I don’t expect much from these snapshots. I jotted them down on the metro, or while walking around, or whenever the next sentence hit me. But at the very least, I hope they make readers feel something, anything, in honor of the snapshots in the hall.
Every soul in town had found their way to that street. Fabric scraped on fabric as the bodies undulated, struggling against each other to move forward. Someone hit her – hard – from her right. Instinctively, she elbowed back and pulled her hat more tightly to her head. People around her moved with a purpose, even if they weren’t going anywhere. She wondered if the crowd pressed around her was slowly pushing her back, away from the square that she, and everyone else, tried so desperately to reach. She wanted to push back against the pressure and come up closer to the front. But this sea couldn’t be cut through so easily, and the people that comprised it were determined to oppose her. Instead, she planted her feet and fought the sway and hoped to witness what she could.
“Stay close to me,” she whispered fiercely.
They were hesitant, enough to stay by her, but she worried about their curiosity. There was not much for them at home. Frankly, she wouldn’t blame them for wandering off if they could find something better. Part of her still hoped for them. But what remained of her hope trickled away from her as slowly as the grimy water trickled into the drain. The part of her that wanted them to stay clung still to their grubby arms. But even that part was uncertain enough to let the course fabric lay loose in her grasp. Hair fell in matted tangles in front of her eyes as she stared blankly toward the end of the cobblestone street. She didn’t know where they would all end up. And a dying part of her still fought to care.
This wasn’t a line, he thought; it was a stalemate. If he moved at all, it was only to shuffle a few inches forward before settling into waiting again. He didn’t dare set his suitcase down, for fear someone would make off with what precious belongings he had left without a thought to him. But his arm tired the longer he carried his things, and the thought of taking the risk was so tempting… Worse than the pain creeping like a worm up his arm was the desolation he had to look at while he stood. There was no where that had gone untouched by the damage, no safe place to rest his eyes. He pitied the souls of the children who couldn’t fathom the situation. He empathized with the families struggling to stay calm. But all the staring and waiting and shuffling and standing had distanced him from the rubble, and he wondered only where he’d end up, without worrying over the home he’d lost.
More of these turned out sad than I intended. Of course, in order for a photograph to be in the Archives, it must have permanent relevance of some sort. And I suppose many of the moments that have permanent relevance are the tragic ones.
Just a reminder that these are not historical and include no basis for fact. They are only the musings of an overly-inspired writer trying to glimpse into a moment of time. Still, I hope you enjoy them.